Introduction to parenting programs

Introduction to parenting programs

Introduction to parenting programs

This section explores parenting and the benefits of parenting programs for young people, parents, families and communities.

It will help LDATs to understand how parenting programs can work to prevent and minimise alcohol and other drug harms.

What is parenting?  

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation recognises that a ‘parent’ is an adult who is performing the role of a primary caregiver to a child. This may be someone other than the child’s biological parent, and may include grandparents, step-parents, foster parents or other carers.

The term ‘parent’ is used throughout this Guide to include all parents, carers and guardians of children.

Parenting programs refers to a group of programs and activities that provide direct and targeted education, training or support to parents. The overall objective of parenting programs is to improve child outcomes.

Parenting programs can improve outcomes in a number of different ways, including by:

  • increasing the parent’s knowledge, skills or capacity as a caregiver
  • addressing parent outcomes, such as parent wellbeing
  • improving family outcomes, such as parent-child interactions.

How parenting programs help to prevent alcohol and other drug use and harm

Parents start to influence their child from day one and remain one of the child’s biggest influencers as they develop into an adult.1-3 It’s not just what parents say that makes a big difference, it’s also what they – and others - do that shapes a young person’s attitudes and behaviours.

While the role of, and impact of, parents changes as children grow and develop, parents’ attitudes and behaviours have an ongoing and powerful role in influencing their child’s beliefs and attitudes about alcohol4,5 and drinking behaviours.6-11 Strengthening the skills, capacity and confidence of parents to have better relationships with their children can be an effective way to improve a whole range of social and health outcomes and can reduce a child’s lifetime risk of AOD use and protect against harms.3-12

Parenting programs can improve parents’ ability to provide caring and supportive environments and build parent-child relationships that optimise early childhood development, including young people’s development of strong emotional and behavioural control (self-regulation).

By strengthening known AOD protective factors (e.g. having a caring relationship with a parent) and reducing risk factors (e.g. harsh or inconsistent parenting), parenting programs can help to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harm. In fact, efforts to prevent AOD use before harmful patterns are established is key to reducing the individual, family and community harms caused by AOD and is the most cost-effective long-term strategy.

Effectiveness of parenting programs

There is strong evidence that empowering parents with knowledge and understanding about why it’s best for children not to drink during adolescence - and the actions they can take - will reduce the likelihood their child will drink and drink in harmful ways.3,4,8,13-15 It can also delay onset of use.3,16

AOD parenting programs are most effective when they aim to improve a range of personal and social skills, such as decision-making and refusal skills, rather than focusing on AOD use behaviours alone.14 Combined school-based and parenting interventions have been shown to be effective at reducing adolescent AOD use17,18 and this evidence continues to grow with new online approaches being trialled.19,20

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) is currently trialling the Planet Youth model through select LDATs in New South Wales and South Australia to determine its effective within the Australian context.

Preventing alcohol and other drug use in Iceland: Planet Youth21

Planet Youth is a community-based model from Iceland that has been internationally recognised for its efforts in preventing alcohol and other drug use in adolescents by strengthening known protective factors. The Planet Youth model was developed in response to rising alcohol and other drug use by adolescents in the late 1990s.22

Two key protective factors are emphasised by the Planet Youth approach:

  • increasing parental monitoring and communication
  • promoting alternative and diversionary supervised activities (e.g. participation in sports).22-24

Planet Youth has demonstrated that alcohol and other drug use may be reduced by increasing:

  • participation in supervised activities
  • time spent with parents
  • support at school
  • supervision during the evenings.23

View Module Sumary